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Fairgrounds to future

4:11 PM  Jan 11th, 2018
by Eric F. Spina

In a recent conversation with leaders of the West Dayton community at a Trotwood church, the talk turned to the future of the former Montgomery County fairgrounds.

“We hope whatever happens there helps knit together our community,” one leader told me.

That gave me pause. While the Great Miami River physically divides our community, the fabric of Dayton is made up of a rich tapestry of people from diverse cultures, races, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds and nationalities. As an anchor institution with a civic focus and a religious mission, we strive to be inclusive and welcoming.

The University of Dayton and Premier Health, new owners of the 38-acre “fairgrounds” parcel, are starting with a clean slate as we think about the renaissance of this land on the edge of downtown and adjacent to both of our campuses. Why can’t we use this once-in-a-lifetime redevelopment opportunity to build more than new buildings?

Let’s use it to build community. Let’s use it to serve the needs of our two institutions — and the common good.

Many on campus and in the community feel the same way. When I walked into the Coliseum at the former Montgomery County fairgrounds for a community forum in November, the feeling of excitement and possibility was palpable. The place surged with energy.

For more than an hour, small groups of people from cross-sections of the Dayton community brainstormed ideas, scribbled them on oversized sheets of paper, prioritized them — and creatively envisioned what the future could hold. Similar scenes played out on campus and within the health system as hundreds of ideas have emerged from this collective show of imagination.

The participants — from all walks of life in our community — envisioned a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development on the doorstep of downtown Dayton. A place that could attract new businesses and restaurants. A place that connects to the Great Miami River and a resurgence of development in downtown Dayton. A place that welcomes young people who want to study, live and work in our community.

Our partner, planning NEXT, is an urban design firm that understands this property is a special place filled with memories and possibilities. As the firm’s co-founder Jamie Greene told the gathering, “We’re trying to find the sweet spot between high-order aspirations and what we can do together. This is really a community-minded vision.”

It’s not too late to participate. I invite you to visit fairgroundstofuture.org and offer your thoughts. We’ll hold more workshops in January to review the development framework before finalizing a long-range master plan in the spring.

Everyone’s voice matters as we imagine the possibilities, as we strengthen the bonds of community.

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Being the solution

10:51 AM  Jan 2nd, 2018
by Gita Balakrishnan

In the summer of 2011, Jessica Davis ’14 was in the middle of Africa on the back of a safari truck, sitting next to a rhinoceros she had just sedated. The transport could have been due to the animal needing to be dehorned to protect it from poachers. Maybe it was because another preserve requested more rhinos. Or maybe, the animal was just sick.

Regardless of the reason, Davis spent one month in Africa trying to protect African wildlife. At the time, she wanted to study wildlife medicine.

But, on her plane ride home, Davis realized she wanted to do more. She recognized the animals she wanted to protect were suffering because of social, environmental and political policies she had no control over.

“I realized I wanted to be the ultimate solution to the problem. I wanted to know why was the first domino even tipped? I don’t want to be these animals’ last line of defense, and that’s what I was in Africa. I want to be their first,” Davis said.

When she arrived back at home in Indianapolis, she knew sustainability was really the solution she was looking for. She went on to receive her master’s in biology from UD with a concentration in ecology.

“Sustainability is not my job. It is my ethos,” she said. “It permeates every decision I make.”

In 2015, Davis became the director of sustainability at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis where she teaches sustainability courses, handles operational sustainability and engages the campus and Indianapolis community.

Her interests include ecology, sustainability, environmental policy, and restoration of the human-nature relationship.

“The reason I am passionate about this is because I view sustainability as an intergenerational obligation. What we do today will have a big impact on those that come after us. If we do not change our trajectory now, future generations will be forced to bear the cost of today’s decision,” she said.

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Taking center stage

10:51 AM  Jan 2nd, 2018
by Lauren Caggiano ’07

Some people spend their whole lives waiting for their dreams to happen. Others make it happen. Through his business, Broadway_Buzz, Bryan Campione ’05 builds social marketing platforms and provides event planning services for entertainers.

And he’s getting noticed.

In 2015 and 2016, he was recognized by IBM as part of the #GameChangersIBM platform for his work in social media on Broadway.  A man of many talents, he also keeps busy producing new theatrical and musical initiatives.

The common theme in his work is one of art for the sake of expression and as an agent of change. In his words: “What I get to do … is take people outside their normal lives for an hour or two and invite them into a world that breaks their norm and reflect inward on whatever that may be.”

Speaking of reflection, Campione said among his greatest achievements have been building and directing Rock n’ Roll Debauchery, a theatrical rock experience that involves singers, dancers, aerialists, video graphics and more throughout the city. Performers come from Broadway, American Idol, Cirque Du Soleil, So You Think You Can Dance, TV, film and more.

Campione, who majored in French at UD, said the work stokes his creative fire. “This is what I love — collaborating and working on exciting projects like this with people from across the gamut of the arts world,” he said.

He said the backdrop of a vibrant big city keeps him energized. In his spare time, he enjoys dining out at the city’s diverse establishments, spending time outdoors and taking in live music. New York has a feel of its own, and Campione absorbs the constant excitement in both work and play.

“It allows working here to be an exciting adventure every day,” he said, “because just like on a Broadway stage, no two shows or
days are the same.”

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Community close to home

11:33 AM  Dec 19th, 2017
by Gita Balakrishnan

A.J. Ferguson ’12 sees Dayton changing. It’s in the way college students are volunteering. It’s in the words of excitement he hears on the streets from other professionals.

“Even 10 years ago, people would tell UD students to not go past Brown Street,” Ferguson said. “But now, when I talk to students, they are aware that something cool is happening. I’m no longer hearing people say that Dayton is this scary, dying city.”

As the director of UpDayton, Ferguson says the positive shift in the perception of the city he calls home is indicative of volunteer efforts, investments and programs that are pouring into downtown revitalization projects.

The nonprofit began in 2008 and is part of those efforts by helping find ways to keep talented individuals in the area.

“Our goal is to inspire and empower Daytonians to create the community they want,” he said. “There’s far more depth and meaning to creating the community you want to live in rather than just moving to one that sounds cool.”

Ferguson got involved in the organization while still a UD student, when he attended the UpDayton Summit in 2012. From there, he volunteered to head an on-campus club GoDayton, which encouraged UD students to leave the “UD bubble” and explore the city.

And although Ferguson’s degree is in mechanical engineering, his full-time position merges his  other passions while at UD: sustainability, River Stewards and Fitz Center for Leadership in Community.

“UD is creating the kind of leaders that our world needs right now,” he said. “No matter your career field, everyone can be involved in their community and be a voice for the common good. Because otherwise, other voices win out.”

If his years at UpDayton and UD have taught him anything, he says it is the power of the individual.

“I believe more than ever that our city needs you to show up,” he said. “I’ve seen it. Anyone can make a difference.”

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How to explain complicated ideas to non-experts

9:36 AM  Dec 15th, 2017
by Shannon Shelton Miller

Whether we work in highly specialized fields like medicine or technology or happen to be making a health care speech on Capitol Hill, our messages must be delivered in a way most can understand.

All UD students regardless of major spend a semester learning that skill in Principles of Oral Communication, a Common Academic Program course that teaches the foundations of making information clear to particular audiences and promoting civil discourse in the process.

Coordinated by communication lecturer Jason Combs, the course incorporates input from professors across academic units whose disciplines have their own communication challenges.  The textbook created especially for the course teaches students to start with the big picture. And then, they’re off:

Know your topic

The communicator must have a strong grasp of the topic’s concrete principles. With that level of understanding, he or she can then determine the best ways to connect with the audience. Sharing a story to illustrate the idea is often helpful.

 Choose wisely

Decide what’s most important, and present only that information. It’s better to pick a smaller amount of information and have the audience
retain all of it than to present a larger amount with minimal retention.

Ask questions

This helps facilitate understanding and generate ethical dialogue.

Remain civil

“The goal is understanding, not debate,” said Joe Valenzano III, chair of the Department of Communication. “The goal is not to change another person’s position, but to get a better understanding of why people think the way they do.”

Know your audience

“This class taught me to increase my awareness of what I communicate,” said senior Kayla McLaughlin, a student in the School of Business Administration who added communication as a minor after taking the class. “I focus on how to say something in front of different people so they’re receiving exactly what I want them to know.”

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A boat, a horse, a man

5:05 PM  Dec 4th, 2017
by Phil Aaron, S.M. ’54

Among a dozen sleeping bodies, I awake to cold and rain. Peter, our leader, will soon say, “Let’s get some breakfast going and row to shore for the marathon run.”

Tea, granola and honey on a 20-foot open boat will be followed by a 7-mile run on a rocky trail around our island base camp. We are nearing the end of a monthlong sailing experience in 1975 at Hurricane Island Outward Bound School in Maine.

A young teacher on my high school staff told me about Outward Bound schools and their theories about learning from the experience of overcoming obstacles in natural settings such as sailing and backpacking.

At age 42, I had a doctorate and a career as the principal of a 2,000-boy high school. But now I was in a competitive situation full of 20-somethings. Many were experienced sailors; I did not know the difference between port and starboard.

I was learning — about adjusting to wind and weather and 20-somethings and about encountering myself.

Water — fog, rain and waves — was the constant that month. We daily moved from one island to another, sometimes sleeping on the boat. It was never hard to fall asleep.

Outward Bound was about learning from experience. There were no books or lectures. The instructor said as little as possible. The experience took place in a group setting because the theory is that the truth is in the group, in the community — and all are responsible for finding it.

Years later, while biking, I stopped at a meadow to admire a mare and a colt. I noticed that, although the mare followed the colt everywhere, she just let it wander around finding its own path except when it ventured near to me. Then the mare chased it off in another direction away from the danger of my presence.

I tried to convince students that this was a symbol of my teaching style; I am afraid they did not understand my method. When I would later ask them about my style of teaching, all they could say was it had something to do with a horse.

My Outward Bound experience convinced me that the greatest service a teacher can do for students is to let them find their own paths in their own ways, to intervene only when their wandering in one direction is not working.

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A whole new world

10:54 AM  Dec 4th, 2017
by Cari Zahn ’18

Kristi Gillespie ’93 spends her time creating worlds.

Picture a kingdom of 10,000 people. There are royals, peasants and people dressed in medieval armor, ready for combat. Tents line a giant field, glowing with string lights in the Pennsylvania night. People run rampant in giant wooden castles and reenact their own storylines.

This is the Pennsic War, a live action roleplay event held by the Society for Creative Anachronism. Gillespie was first introduced to the Society in college, and though her time served in the Navy drew her away from such activities, she was reintroduced to role playing when she met her wife and reentered the fantastical worlds of seven different groups.

One thing Gillespie finds most appealing is the inclusivity it provides. As a disabled veteran, Gillespie isn’t able to participate in the combative events but said there is so much else to do within these worlds, such as blacksmithing, leatherworking and cooking.

“It’s an escape from reality,” Gillespie said. “You get to be somebody else. You don’t have the baggage of your daily life for the weekend.”

Gillespie has published one book, titled Gultar, the Gentle Giant, and is in the process of writing another. She uses her writing skills to craft weekend-long live-action events with 80 or 90 different storylines. She’s running an event this October and working to make it even more inclusive by designing characters for transgender and nonbinary people, an idea she picked up at a new Harry Potter-inspired event she attended last year.

While being a famous author and turning her books into movies are among Gillespie’s dreams, for now, she said she is content creating worlds for people to entertain and be entertained by.

“I’m happy just making other people happy at this point,” Gillespie said. “I’ve lived a really full life. I’ve done almost everything I’ve ever wanted to do in life.”

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Role model

11:11 AM  Nov 30th, 2017
by Jeaneen Parsons

As a human resources executive at Ford Motor Co. and then Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Eric Mathews ’88 knows what it takes to be successful in business. As a former teammate of new UD men’s basketball head coach Anthony Grant ’87, he also knows what it takes to work as a team to be competitive and reach goals.

Now Mathews uses his skills as a career-education teacher in the Akron (Ohio) Public Schools. He was drawn to teaching several years ago as the perfect balance between preparation and success and was recognized as the Association for Career and Technical Education Teacher of the Year in 2015. He also received praise from President Barack Obama at the White House in 2016 during Teacher Appreciation Week.

“I have a passion to prepare students to be career- and post-secondary-ready. In the classroom, my students learn collaboration, problem solving and critical-thinking skills. They work as a group to develop new ideas and support each other with their roles and responsibilities,” he said.

Mathews sees his presence in the classroom as a role model for students on how persistence, hard work and preparation can help them achieve positive outcomes in life. “My students are involved in laboratory activities, internships, job shadowing and participation in DECA (Distribution Education Clubs of America) competitions. This will help them in college or the workforce.”

Mathews, an Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity member, advises those considering a career change to teaching to “follow your passion” and have a role in “developing the future leaders of our great country and have a lasting impact on lives.” He adds, “When I was at UD, I never thought that I would be a teacher. What I can say is that UD taught me a sense of community and of giving back to society. Guess what — I’m doing it. Many lives have been effected positively.”

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Driven to create

10:37 AM  Nov 21st, 2017
by Jessica Barga

Where most people saw trash, Beatrice Mady ’76 saw a blank canvas waiting for color.

Mady was a contributing artist for Landfillart, a project that repurposes old metal hubcaps into paintings, sculptures and more. Mady’s work, a black-and-white painted disk filled with curving shapes called swans, represents her family and was inspired by a trip to Japan.

“I’ve been very involved with recycling and reusing … so it was a great idea to take something that was going to be thrown away and make it into beautiful art,” she said.

When she’s not creating with found pieces, Mady draws from her travels — to places including Croatia, Egypt, the American Southwest and Germany — to craft photographs, oil paintings and digital work.

“The subject matter is abstract, not literal; I try to capture the flavor of the country I visited,” she said.

At any given time, she might have five paintings and a handful of digital pieces in progress. But when you’re passionate about something, Mady says, it doesn’t feel like work: “I don’t think there’s a separation between work and creating art. I make art for me, out of my need for creating something.”

An associate professor of graphic arts at St. Peter’s University in New Jersey, Mady shares her passion with students in much the same way her professors at UD once did as she majored in painting.

“I love teaching because it keeps me fresh in the field. It’s nice to share my love of the arts with others who are burgeoning artists,” she said.

And for those burgeoning artists, Mady had a few words of advice: “Practice your craft and then develop your work. Once it’s like breathing, you can create a work of art and then develop your own style. Your work is good, even if people are saying no. Eventually, someone will say yes.”

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It’s the jazz, man

3:28 PM  Nov 14th, 2017
by Michael Dunekacke

The traditional-foot tapping jazz, not the finger-snapping kind. Dixieland, Ragtime and New Orleans’ style. That’s the type of jazz Bob Ashman ’59 wants to hear, and it’s what he wants to share.

After graduation and a stint in the Army, Ashman worked for Procter & Gamble for 36 years. Part of his time was spent in
New Orleans, where Ashman would hear plenty of jazz, but it wasn’t where he fell in love with it.

In the mid-’50s, I lived on Alberta Street across from the Fieldhouse,” Ashman said. “There was a bar downtown, and a bunch of us would go down there every time Carl Halen’s Gin Bottle Seven played.” Included in the bunch of friends was Ashman’s future wife, Connie Masten ’57.

The close-knit community of Flyers isn’t so different from what Ashman experienced when he started the Cape May Traditional Jazz Society nine years ago in New Jersey.

“I don’t play, and I thought the most difficult part about starting the society would be finding musicians. It was the easiest,” Ashman said. “They’re like a band of brothers.”

When word got out that Ashman was booking traditional jazz bands once a month, they reached out to him. Like the crowds that come to hear the music, the players do it for the love of the music.

“Sometimes we lose a few bucks. When we make money, we donate it to a local food bank,” Ashman said. 

Like so many Flyers, Ashman is in it for the love, and he’s willing to give back to the community. It doesn’t come without effort.

“If you want something to happen, you’ve got to get off your ass and do it. We’re a small group,” said Ashman describing the Cape May Traditional Jazz Society Board. “We’re all retired, and we handle everything from booking the bands to setting up the chairs.”

The payment? Traditional jazz, and that’s music to his ears.

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